Interview: Caprice

She made her name baring almost all for lad mags in the 1990s. She still undresses for the camera, but now it’s part of a plan to cement a reputation as a serious entrepreneur, and make a fortune in the process


It could be any office anywhere. The location, wedged between London's Westway flyover and the train tracks, is not madly glamorous but there are signs, if you look for them, that the chief executive of this particular company has spent her life in places far removed from trading estates.

The first clue comes with the racks of sexy lingerie hanging in the middle of the open plan space; the second are the two chihuahuas wandering nonchalantly around the office, and the third is the boss herself, who despite being nearer 40 than 30, retains the unblemished skin and toned body which adorned the covers of Maxim and FHM and the pages of practically every tabloid in the country.

Caprice, whose underwear brand is appearing in a steadily increasing number of outlets on the high street and beyond, including BHS and Littlewoods, still does some modelling but jokes that these days she is "mainly the cover girl on business magazines".

To spend a few minutes in her company is to understand that her lingerie business, By Caprice, is no vanity project - the blonde Californian wants to be up there with Bill Gates and Richard Branson one day.

Some people refused to arrange meetings with me

Caprice

"I was a very, very, very ambitious young girl. I wanted to be governor of California or own a chain of hotels like Leona Hemsley. I want my business to be enormous, as big as Victoria's Secret. I want to earn quadrillions."

But it is not just the prospect of earning a fortune that spurs her on - after all, the modelling career has given her a very nice nest egg. No, for her, it is all about "achievement - having the goal and going for it".

She says: "When I see my sales figures and they are good, that gives me such a buzz. This is the most rewarding thing I have ever done, probably because I worked so hard to achieve it. I think I would have been successful at anything I put my mind to - it's just my nature. I tell the people who work with me never to come back and tell me that they can't find something or can't do something. That drives me nuts. You go and figure it out and you make it
happen."

This kind of drive is already making Caprice - she is one of those celebrities known only by their first name - a lot of money. She is proud that she has no equity partners and no outstanding bank loans. This does not mean she has not suffered setbacks in the past couple of years. The business was badly hit by the recession. "I had to cut production by half, I couldn't expand and I also had problems with the exchange rate. I didn't know much about 'forwards' and 'hedging', but I had to find out fast. I lost a lot of money, but when you get knocked down you get back up. We've been through the worst downturn I'll ever see in my life and I'm in profit."

One of her greatest challenges had nothing to do with the recession and everything to do with people's perception of her as just a blonde model. "I had a really hard time with that," she says. "Some people would refuse to arrange meetings with me because they thought I wouldn't be around in a year. They thought this was just a little stunt I was doing. I've had to work really hard to gain my credibility."

These days she is not quite so worried about how the men in suits relate to her. "Babe, I have the figures on paper. They can say what they want because the figures say I am a success story."

It was a figure of a different kind which made Caprice one of Britain's most photographed women of the '90s. Caprice Bourret was raised with her younger sister in the suburbs of Los Angeles by her Jewish mother. Her father left when she was five. She describes her upbringing as standard, middle class and unremarkable. She began to compete in beauty pageants when she was a teenager and was approached by an agent who told her she could make a lot of money out of modelling. "I said: 'Wow, great, thank you, so sweet, where do I sign?' And off I went to New York."

Her career brought her to Britain in 1996 and she got her big break when she wore what she describes as "very risqué dress" for the National Television Awards and ended up on the front page of just about every newspaper.

So started her love-hate relationship with the media, although, on balance, Caprice maintains there have been far more ups than downs. "I didn't really enjoy the actual modelling so much - it doesn't take Einstein to look at a camera and make a good shape. But I loved the money and I loved the independence."

Of the downs, the lowest point came with her conviction in 2006 for drink-driving. "I was busted and the papers came down on me really hard, and rightly so. I had a hard time during that period and I went into a little bit of a depression. I was upset at myself for being irresponsible. God forbid that I should have hurt someone or hurt myself. Now, if I even take a sip I take a taxi. And if I see anyone drinking around me I'll take away their car keys. My business lost an account as a result of that. They didn't want their store associated with that kind of behaviour and I don't blame them. Now I look at things really differently. My name is my brand."

However, despite the odd mishap, she stresses she adored the fame, the first-class travel, the hotels, the yes people, and the "ridiculous money". That made it easier to deal with the unwelcome stories, including the Sun's allegation that she had been in The Priory on a drugs detox.

"That really bothered me," she says. "I take pride in the fact that I don't do drugs. I tried them when I was 19 and it was a disaster. I don't like drugs or what they have done to my friends. So I got upset. But it comes with the territory - you have to take the good with the bad."

In fact, Caprice takes good care of the body which has been her fortune with a rigorous regime of diet and training, She is comfortable modelling her own products. "As long as there's photo re-touching I'm gonna keep on going. I'll carry on modelling until I stop selling the products. I don't have an ego about it. When the time comes I'll be over the moon to let go and get the next best model do it instead. It's all about selling."

Well, it is not quite all about selling. Caprice also wants to raise money for her favourite charities, among them Childline and Tikva, which provides support for homeless, abandoned and abused Jewish children in Ukraine. She also wants to be a wife and a mother, but she has yet to find the right guy to share her life despite some high-profile relationships with, among others, footballer Tony Adams and cricketer Kevin Pieterson. She says: "I just finished with someone. It's fine, it happens. If it's not working you move on."

When she does eventually have kids she plans to bring them up with a strong sense of their Jewish identity. "In my teens I was shomer Shabbat. I wanted to understand my roots so I dived in. I'm still kosher now and I normally keep the festivals although I don't go to shul every week. When I have children I'll be a bit more stringent."

So how is she going to find the right man? Online perhaps? She laughs. "I think maybe I'll get my friends to set me up with some people first. If that doesn't work out maybe I'll go on JDate. Can you imagine? That would be hilarious."

    Last updated: 10:34am, June 10 2010